Subject: Looking for Resources
From: Wallace McKeehan
I need advice on where I can find the Company Commanders (and more personnel if possible) of the following centralist units at Bexar, fall 1835. Also to which units the following were associated who were mentioned in the Cos Capitulation: José Juan Sánchez, Adjutant-Inspector; Don Ramon Musquiz, and Lieutenant Francisco Rada and Juan Cortina, J. Francisco de Rada, and Francisco Herrera.Agua Verde
Álamo de Parras
Bavia: Capt. Jesus de la Garza
Morelos: Capt Apolinario Morales
First Nuevo León
Second Nuevo León
Pueblo Río Grande
First Tamaulipas: Capt. Pedro Quintero
Wallace L. McKeehan
Guide to the microfilm edition of the BEXAR ARCHIVES, 1822-1836, by Chester V. Kielman. A University of Texas Archives Microfilm Publication sponsored by the National Historical Publications Commission, Austin, Texas, 1971. [I feel sure that Texas A&M University Library has the microfilm for this. This is an 83 page publication complete with index.]
THE BEXAR ARCHIVES (1717-1836), A Name Guide, compiled and edited by Adan Benavides, Jr., Published by the University of Texas Press, Austin, for the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1989.[This book weighs in at 1171 pages.] The indexes in both of these are very complete and should take you to new material, assuming that you may not have mined both of these already.
Dr. Malcolm D. McLean, Ph.D.
Subject: Crockett's Contributions
From: Christopher J. Sokol email@example.com
Has any body attempted to make an educated guess as to the number of Mexican soldiers Davy Crockett personally killed? A history professor at WVU said that some historians claim that the number could be as high as forty. Any comments?
Christopher J. Sokol
There is no way anyone could know how many Soldados were killed by Crockett or anyone else in the Alamo for that matter. There are numerous stories of Crocketts marksmanship and many of the early day "Chroniclers" told of Crockett's body being found surrounded with 10, 20 or add your own number here Mexican bodies, and thats what most of them are, just stories. While legend and myth make for good reading and exciting storytelling the reality is each man in the compound did his best and does it really matter how many men Crockett killed.
John Bryant, Staff Writer
Alamo de Parras
Subject: De La Peña Doubts
From: Ron D'Ambrosi
When I first heard of the De La Peña diary and the extensive information it contained, I became a firm believer in its accuracy, without ever reading it- if historians agreed with it, I reasoned, it's accurate. However when I bought With Santa Anna In Texas, I began to have doubts. Travis's description of being blond haired and death of stopping and turning around to shoot is historically inaccurate. Why have historians believed Crockett's execution as fact if Travis's description and death are historically inaccurate? Why haven't historians questioned the authenticity of this document because of this description? If De La Peña's description of Travis is inaccurate, isn't there a possibility of De La Peña's description of Crockett's execution inaccurate?
Brooklyn, New York
My personal belief is that "With Santa Anna in Texas" by Enrique de la Peña is authentic -- this is not the same as saying that it does not contain historical inaccuracies. Anyone who has done much research using first person accounts soon finds that virtually every one of them contains errors. The errors can be caused by personal biases of the author, memory failings, or just plain mistakes. Another thing that has to be taken into consideration is that most personal narratives are not exclusively tellings of what the writer has personally seen or heard. They almost always include things they've heard from others, that the writers use to expand upon and flesh out their own personal experiences. This does not invalidate their authenticity or their value.
I think that de la Peña probably saw or heard of the heroic death of the blond haired soldier, and was impressed enough to remember and describe it in much detail. In an attempt to attach some meaning and significance to his death, de la Peña assumed that he was not just one of many other anonymous Texians,
but the commander of the garrison, LTC Travis himself. This type of thing happens quite frequently. I know a veteran of the World War II Normandy invasion who has a vivid recollection of General Patton standing on the beach directing traffic, even though Patton was not present during the invasion. In fact, Patton was back in England, pretending to be preparing a landing on another part of the coast.
I tend to agree with you that de la Peña's erroneous identification and description of the death of Travis invalidates his description of Crockett. There is not much doubt that several defenders surrendered or were captured alive after the battle, only to be executed upon the direct order of Santa Anna. However, my personal opinion is that de la Peña's identification of Crockett is not reliable because of his misidentification of Travis. If I was on a jury and had to give a verdict based only on de la Peña's account, I would not vote that Crockett was among those captured. Another identification that I think is unreliable, for the same reason (he erroneously identified Travis as being among those executed), is SGT Francisco Becerra's.
All of this is not to say that I dismiss the possibility of Crockett's surrender; my vote is not in yet. If you follow the Lindley-Crisp debates, I think you'll see other evidence presented by both sides, in addition to the de la Peña account. Let us know what you think.
Bob Durham, Contributing Editor
Alamo de Parras
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Subject: Alamo Lake?
From: Larry W. Ricketts firstname.lastname@example.org
In looking at several drawings and the Dioramas at the Imax theateras well as the Alamo gift shop, I notice that there was a rather large lake just north east of the chapel. This looks to be in about the same area as where the restrooms are now currently located. However, no where in the accounts of battle that I have read are movies that I have watched have I seen or read any mention of this rather large body of water. It seems to me that if there was this rather large body of water at this location that it would have come in to play during the battle of the Alamo. Does anyone have any comments on this?
Also, I would like to add that I throughly enjoy your web site and hope that you keep up the good work.
Larry W. Ricketts
From Bob Durham, Contributing Editor, Alamo de Parras:
I have also been puzzled why no accounts of the Battle of the Alamo have made mention of the lake and the effect on the battle. Actually, I think there were two lakes, and the maps seem to show them directly east of the convent walls. The lakes are described as being shallow, but troops would never have been ordered to charge across them, especially during the predawn darkness when the assault took place. Gary Zaboly's drawing of the first phase of the assault takes the lakes into consideration, showing Romero's column attacking between the lakes, and against the east wall of the convent yards. This is a possibility, but it would have left the lakes at their backs, making retreat difficult if the attack failed. Look at what happened at San Jacinto (the Mexican Army had a body of water at their back there, and many were killed because they had nowhere to retreat).
I think that Romero's east assault column attacked either south of the lakes, which meant against the east wall of the chapel, or north of the lakes. An attack to the north would have been against the northeast corner and north wall of the convent yard (the cattle corral, and the area where the Alamo
privies were located), and/or against the northern portion of the east wall north of the Long Barracks.
Since the Romero's east assault column eventually joined with Duque's north column, I believe they probably attacked north of the lakes. Also, an attack north of the lakes would have avoided the artillery battery mounted on the east wall of the chapel.
From UTSA Archaeologist and Consultant to Alamo de Parras, I. Waynne Cox:
I'm afraid I have no first hand knowledge on any significent bodies of water to the northeast of the Alamo, but we haven't done much work in that area, especially any with any depth. I have often wondered what they might have been. I suspect that they may not be as close as La Bastida might have led us to believe. He has enlarged the Alamo out of proportion in order to show detail. (For example, look at the relationship of the Garita to the Alamo.)
The Green Jameson map is hard to believe, but he seems to place the lake beyond the branching of the Acequia Madre, which would place it somewhere near Austin Street and Ninth Avenue under Interstate 35. Gentilz's "Fall of the Alamo"  gives no indication that he had ever heard of a body of water in that direction. I have always suspected that it might have been an overflowing of the Acequia Madre, since they frequently had trouble with that area, and the acequia would certainly not have been well maintained during that period.
From Historian / Illustrator, Gary Zaboly:
The La Bastida map clearly shows what are not really lakes but two ponds connected by a common stream or acequia, and with several other streams flowing into them. Obviously they must sit in a depression of some depth in order to exist, but chances are they were not deep, and one could probably have waded across them with little problem.
The "Jameson" plan also indicates this "reservoir" of sorts-though he stylizes it as one body of water-and suggests that the fort be supplied from it by digging an auxiliary ditch from the main acequia that connected to the "lake".
Chances are the ponds existed at the time of the beginning of de Valero, but the monks might have directed their digging-or expansion-in order to provide a sizable body of drinking water for livestock.
Part of one of these ponds can be seen in at least one post-battle sketch, a watercolor by Captain Arthur T. Lee done in 1848. This shows two youths fishing at its curved edge, while some distance beyond flows an extension of the main Alamo acequia. At the time of the siege, Mexican engineers, by blocking the ditch in the north, might have considerably lessened the depth of the ponds, and at the same time entirely cut off the water running into the ditches alongside the Alamo. Texian sallies might have been aimed at these ponds, which no doubt still held the precious water.
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Subject:Re: De La Pena Doubts
From: Ed Dubravsky
Too many people judge the authenticity of the De La Peña manuscript based on whether or not they believe his account of the death of David Crockett. Bob Durham makes an excellent point when he states that it is entirely possible to believe that the manuscript is authentic and that the Crockett death story is simply something the author did not witness, but instead something he had heard and threw in for effect.
So. Berwick, Maine
Subject: Re: De la Peña doubts
From: James E. Crisp
Dear Mr. D'Ambrosi:
Almost five years of work with the de la Peña manuscripts have left me with no doubts as to their authenticity. That is, they are what they say they are: a clean copy, made in Matamoros in July of 1836, of the diary kept during the Texas campaign by de la Peña; and an almost complete memoir (based on the diary, on de la Peña's recollections, and on the reports of several other officers and soldiers with whom de la Peña consulted as he worked on his memoir between 1836 and 1840).
The recent authentication of the age and availability of the paper used in the manuscript by the auction house of Butterfield and Butterfield has confirmed my own finding of paper bearing the same watermark, by the same manufacturer, being used by the Mexican army in Matamoros for printed broadsides in 1838, about the same time that de la Peña would have been securing the paper for his handwritten memoir.
Obviously, none of this speaks to de la Peña's total accuracy, as opposed to the authenticity of the manuscripts. In fact, total accuracy in a war memoir of this kind would be highly unusual, to say the least.
Although many people who have evaluated de la Peña's descriptions of both places and events have found him to be a competant and useful observer, whose descriptions, for instance, of the Mexican retreat have been confirmed by archeological evidence, let me speak directly to your question about the death of Davy Crockett.
For a number of reasons, if all we knew of Crockett's death had come from de la Peña, historians would be hard pressed to make a persuasive argument for Crockett's execution. After all, de la Peña's description of the executions at the Alamo are found only in his rewritten memoir, and not in the much shorter "diary" itself. Moreover, de la Peña gives us no indication of who told him that Crockett was among the executed prisoners, or even how he knew what Crockett had told his captives. (There is no indication that de la Peña understood English.)
De la Peña says that he witnessed the executions, and there is no sufficient reason to disbelieve him, but as the misidentification of Travis indicates, an eyewitness is not the same as an expert witness in a case like this one.
That is why the corroborating evidence is so important in the Crockett case. If the argument for Crockett's execution rested on de la Peña alone, it would be a very weak one. However, as I have noted in the pages of The Alamo Journal, a strong case for Crockett's execution can be made, independent of the de la Peña diary.
The critical pieces of evidence are: 1) the newspaper report of Crockett's execution first published in the New York Courier and Enquirer in the summer of 1836, and reprinted in a number of papers subsequently; 2) the memoir of Ramon Martínez Caro, Santa Anna's personal secretary during the Texas campaign, published in Mexico City in 1837; and the "Dolson letter," written from the prisoner of war camp on Galveston Island by Texan Sergeant George M. Dolson to his brother in Michigan, and published in Sept., 1836, in a Detroit newspaper.
The New York newspaper account is a letter by an anonymous reporter, quoting an anonymous informant (also from the prisoner of war camp on Galveston Island), who gives the details of Crockett's execution. (Details that are very similar to the ones recounted by de la Peña.) The Dolson letter, written a few weeks later, gives both these and a few more details, and identifies Col. Juan Almonte as the Mexican officer who recognized Crockett and told the anonymous Mexican officer (for whom Dolson was translating in a debriefing session) that one of the prisoners was Crockett.
It is, for me, very significant that many of the details of these two stories of Crockett's execution (which likely came from the same prisoner in the Galveston camp), were confirmed by the memoir of Martínez Caro, who was NOT kept at this camp at any time.
In other words, when back in Mexico and free of any need to please the Texans, and free of any reason to repeat stories which would contradict the eyewitness recollections of other Mexican soldiers who were at the Alamo, Martínez Caro described the same scene (although he mentioned the names of no prisoners) as did the Galveston prisoner(s). Almost all historians÷including Bill Groneman and Tom Lindley÷accept Caro's account as that of a legitimate eyewitness--and yet the details of his description largely match those given a full year earlier by the two letters from Texas which identified Crockett as one of the captives.
In other words, these two letters were not just idle rumors. They were given by someone who had seen the same event as Caro, and who, in the case of Dolson's informant, also had the advantage of Juan Almonte's identification of Crockett.
Even in this long answer, I have omitted a host of details, especially concerning the Dolson letter, that have been argued over at great length by me, Groneman, Lindley, and others. This web page is in the process of republishing the six "back-and-forth" articles done by Tom Lindley and me over this very subject in 1995 and 1996 for The Alamo Journal. I stand by every point that I made in those essays.
One new wrinkle in the story is William C. Davis's argument in The Journal of the Alamo Battlefield Association (Fall, 1997) that Caro was just repeating a story that he read that had been copied from an American newspaper. The problems with this argument is that it lacks both evidence and logic. Davis simply assumes that Caro could have read the Galveston accounts, and that he then would have repeated this story in his memoir, even though he was himself an eyewitness to Santa Anna's entry into the Alamo.
I prefer using the actual evidence we have. These documents show that Santa Anna, without knowing the identity of the prisoners brought before him, ordered their immediate execution, and that that order was carried out on the spot. There are NO credible eyewitnesses to Crockett's death in combat; there are three (or four) eyewitnesses to the executions at the Alamo, and two (or three, depending on whether you count the letters from Galveston as coming from one person or two) of these identify Crockett as one of the captives who were executed.
There are all kinds of "coulda, woulda, shoulda" arguments that people can make about Davy and how he died. I prefer to evaluate, as dispassionately as possible, the evidence that we have, and to draw a logical and probable conclusion. I believe that the evidence supports the argument that Crockett was among the executed prisoners.
James E. Crisp, Department of History
North Carolina State University
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Subject: Re: Re: De la Peña doubts
From: Jake Ivey email@example.com
Sorry, but I think you're on the wrong track. You're fighting over tactics when the problem is strategic: There can be no anti-surrender and pro-surrender argument about Davy Crockett, because there is no anti-surrender. There is no evidence for Crockett's fighting to the death. None. Zip. To argue over whether his execution occurred before 6 a.m. or after and whether this proves that the stories about his surrender are wrong is silly, because those stories are the only stories. Nobody who was present at the Alamo during its last
moments and lived to write about it has told any story of Davy going down swinging; only one or another version of how he surrendered and was executed. The anti-surrender position is based on nothing but wishful thinking.
Santa Fe, NM
Hmm. No evidence of Crockett fighting to death. None. zip. Hmm.What about all those dead Alamo defenders. How did they end up in that terminal state? A mass surrender?
William R.Chemerka, Editor
Subject: Re: De la Peña doubts
From: Jake Ivey firstname.lastname@example.org
Actually, though, you have a point. It's reasonable to suppose that, since the majority of the defenders died fighting, this would be the automatic assumption for Crockett, if it could be shown that he didn't do the surrender/execution thing. Although such an assumption isn't certain (he could have gone over the wall with the others of the handful of surviving escapees, for example), it's reasonable. However, we have here a case where everyone who claimed to recognize Crockett told the same general story about what happened, and nobody who claimed to recognize him told a story of his fighting to the death. The pro-surrender scenario has documentary support, in the usual jumbled-impression, multiple-viewpoint form, while the anti-surrender scenario has no documents to support it. Since we're at this point, I'd like to bring up a further consideration. If Crockett was an officer, he had a responsibility to the men under his command; in essence, he surrendered them, in order to save their lives, as a commander in a hopeless situation should do -- he wasn't simply surrendering himself to save his, and they happened to be there.
Subject: Other lost documents?
From: Roger Borroel
If Mr. de la Peña wrote such a complete account of the Texan war; shouldn't there be others not uncovered yet, laying in the Mexican Archives in Mexico City? Shift your research to the intelligent officers of the Zapadores battalions, or any other officer of the other battalions. In those days diaries were common, esp. to a soldier. If de la Peña wrote in his military records about himself, it stands to reason that other Mexican officers did so too. The accounts of the Alamo Battle, and other battle actions are waiting quietly to be discovered by some unique man.